“Bikes have a tremendous disruptive advantage over cars. Bikes will eat cars.” – Horace Dediu
There’s a lot going on in transportation and human mobility these days. We’re sitting at a strategic inflection point. Think Internet, circa 2000. Just like then, very few people understand how dramatic the changes that lie ahead will be. Just like then, they will happen far more quickly than most of us can imagine. The wheels have been set in motion. There is no going back.
This is good for those of us who love bicycles. I say this with absolute confidence. Moving around the country has given me a certain perspective I wouldn’t otherwise have. The world is getting more crowded. It’s so obvious. I saw it along Colorado’s Front Range in the 1980s and again in the endless sprawl of Minnesota’s Twin Cities ten years later. More recently, I lived it along the crowded IH35 corridor between Austin and San Antonio and again along Utah’s Wasatch Front as both of these metroplexes exploded with people. In hindsight, our move to rural Iowa was as much about finding the last uncrowded place as it was anything else.
Open space is rapidly disappearing and as it does, more and more of us are beginning to question just how much of what’s left should be allocated to people as opposed to personal automobiles. For the last 75 years or so, cars have ruled. That’s starting to change. We’re beginning to understand just how much we’ve had to give up to accommodate our cars. The vitriol directed at things like self driving cars and bicycles suggests to me that many people understand that the ground is about to shift under their feet. Change always freaks us out and this time is no different in that regard. That said, change is inevitable. Change is the only constant.
Horace Dediu “gets” this. He’s a technologist, so his realm is in leveraging tools to create solutions. We ascribe a sort of magic to technology, but that’s misleading. Technology is just about leveraging tools. When it comes to moving humans with the smallest possible footprint and consumption of power, there is no tool quite like a bicycle. Throw on a tiny electric motor and you eliminate virtually all of the objections to cycling as transportation. You won’t labor. You won’t sweat. Going uphill is a breeze. Yes, I know, sometimes it rains. That’s what GoreTex is for.
And so I’m absolutely convinced that Horade Dediu is right. He views bikes as similar to other transformational technologies, like Amazon, for example. Amazon ate Borders for an appetizer. Now it’s eating everything else in the retail space.
Bicycles are going to eat cars…not because I like bikes, but rather because bicycles are a sustainable solution in a world that is pushing up against unmovable limits. Cars aren’t sustainable…not even tiny electric ones. Our world badly needs more sustainable solutions . Bicycles solve the space problem. They help mitigate the effects of climate change and reduce road building budgets. Bicycles help us live closer and better. They help make us healthier. Folks can embrace the future or they can resist it, but either way that rumbling sound you hear isn’t going away. It’s the change tsunami and it will engulf us whether we want it to or not. I believe life is better on the front side of the wave. I know for absolute certain that life is better on a bike. That’s why I do this. You, too, I hope.
Find your bike. Saddle up. Ride.